Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Orcs vs. Dwarves - Kings of War AAR

This weekend past, I asked Curt if he wouldn't mind helping me test the foam sheet units - from my Hobby Done Cheap post - using the Kings of War rules. Curt took the Orcs, obviously, and I ran the Dwarves.

The table featured some line-of-sight blocking terrain, some cover providing terrain, and some terrain that would slow down units that passed through them (the dark patches of green representing forests). Our respective forces would start on the black edges and move onto the table, which would give us a little more room to maneuver.

Our armies were tactical opposites. Curt's Orcs had faster moving infantry with cavalry and chariot units, while my Dwarves were slower moving but had ranged attacks from the Rangers, Ironwatch, and artillery units.

Curt had placed his Gore Chariots on one flank, and his Gore Riders on another. With their great mobility, the Riders and Chariots came screaming through the woods on either side while his infantry advanced over the hills at a dead run. 

I deployed my artillery on my flanks, hoping the Ironbelcher Cannon and Flame Belcher would be enough to hold Curt's flankers while my infantry advanced to the opposing line. Unfortunately, this plan failed when Curt managed to keep his line just out of charge distance of my stubby-legged Dwarves, allowing the Orcs to charge into combat first.

While my Flame Belcher had some luck with holding back two of the Gore Chariots, the single Ironbelcher wasn't nearly as useful, and the cannoneers watched helplessly as the Gore Riders slammed into the flank of the Rangers, routing them after a single charge.

The Riders would then proceed to roll up my right flank, similarly crushing my Shieldbreakers unit on the right. Curt's envelopment of my line meant that none of my units could turn to face the Riders without receiving a flank charge from the main line of Orcs. My only hope was that I could break Curt's line at some point and force a similar roll along one of his flanks.

Unfortunately that plan didn't come to fruition, with the Orcs massacring the Dwarves and turning the battle into a complete rout. It was a total victory for the Orcs, who only lost two Gore Chariots during the entire battle.

As crushing as my defeat was, I enjoyed using the KoW rules - and Curt certainly did. We've never really played any games together that involved lines of battle, and Curt appreciated this, being a big fan of the Total War series of computer games.

What's great about the King of War ruleset is that there is a plethora of historical lists that could easily run games from the ancient age of hoplites up to the English Civil War. And with my cheap method of making units, I can see plenty of game of KoW in the future!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bloody Politics - Empire of the Dead AAR

This past weekend saw the beginning of the "Shadows Over Domesin Street" campaign at 7th Dimension games. Starting at 150 shillings, the factions currently involved are:

Me - Lycaon
Gary - Nosferatu
Carl - Holy Order
Bob - Gentlemen's Club

This means we've got quite a bit of variety for the games. We've also been contemplating allowing alternate factions for each player, especially if some groups begin to outpace others in their standing (i.e., how many shillings they're worth, which is an indicator of their in-game overall strength). If we're really lucky, West Wind might release the rules for the rest of their available factions from their Requiem Kickstarter, but none of us are holding our breath for that result.

That being said, I think the campaign had a great start, and I'm definitely interested to see where it goes from here.

My first game was played against Carl, and we ended up playing a Prisoner scenario in the countryside. A ruined old church dominated the center of the table, where the Holy Order would be defending a member of the House of Lords who wanted further taxation on the lower classes. My anarchist Lycaons had decided that this particular aristocrat needed to go, and would be the attackers.

Gary and Bob's faction ended up playing the Blissful Ignorance scenario (where the opposing players must either attack or rescue members of the unknowing public) which took place at a Thames-side quay somewhere in London. Bob ended up winning the scenario, greatly advancing his Gentlemen's Club.

Back in our game, Carl deployed his Holy Order members around the prisoner, wisely keeping him in cover. The two Sisters  (technically the Sisters are Brothers for in-game stats) on the upper floor had firearms, while the mace-wielding priest represented a winged Knight Marshall. I didn't expect Carl to use his Spanish Inquisition miniatures!

My Lycaons deployed in a circle around the ruins, with the wolf and werewolves covering one side, as they were able to move much faster than their Wolfskin brethren. A Wolfskin with a crossbow, decked out with a telescopic sight, waited out of sight behind a building in a small hamlet.

Two more Wolfskins waited on the other side of the church, ready to move in.

The crossbow Wolfskin was quickly removed from the game. Since the crossbow is a move-or-shoot weapon, the Wolfskin was readying a shot when he was knocked off his feet from a direct hit from a hunting rifle. The Wolfskin was only able to crawl back into cover before succumbing to his wound and being removed from the game. First blood to the Holy Order!

While the two bow-armed Wolfskins skirmished with the pistol wielding Sister on the top floor, my Beastlord, Pack Master and Wolf made a dash for the runs, preparing to charge into combat.

Carl finally got initiative, and the Holy Order got the drop on the Lycaons. While a claymore-armed Sister was deterred by the Beastlord's Spine-Chilling presence, the Deacon and Knight Marshall charged forward. One again, however, the Lycaons demonstrated their superiority in close combat. The Beastlord took apart the Knight Marshall and Deacon, the Pack Master tore into the Sister, and the Wolf brought down the Brother guarding the prisoner. A lucky bow shot also downed one of the Sisters on the top floor.

With only one member of the Holy Order still standing, Carl decided to cut his losses and retreat, leaving the Lord to his fate. Victory went to the Lycaons.

This being a campaign game, Carl and I then sat down to determine what the after effects of the various injuries would be. Unfortunately for Carl, he took quite a few losses. While his Knight Marshall turned out to have no lasting wounds, one of his Sisters became Unhinged. Two of his faction members, the Deacon and a Brother, were arrested. While the Deacon will be missing two games, the Brother was deported back to Italy. The last Sister was taken Prisoner herself by the Lycaons and converted to their cause, adding another member to my pack.

With my winnings, I decided to up the skills and stats of my group. The Beastlord and Pack Master gained Fighting Beast and Fury respectively (making them better in close combat), while one of the Wolfskins gained a point in Bravado and the crossbow-armed Wolfskin gained a point in Marksmanship. In one game, my standing increased from 150 to 204 points!

With such a high standing, it looks like I'll be facing off against Bob's Gentlemen's Club in the next game.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hobby Done Cheap - Foam Sheet Units

Last month, the Behind Enemy Lines podcast discussed Mantic's Kings of War rules. KoW is a ruleset that I've always been interested in, having wet my toes with Warhammer Fantasy Battles 8th Edition when it first came out and found it not to my liking. 

However, I don't think I'll be collecting a fantasy army anytime soon, with the necessary investment in time and money to buy, put together and paint the miniatures. However, during the podcast, there was a suggestion that one could use cardboard or paper cutouts. Since KoW is an element based game - with no single-figure removal like in Warhammer Fantasy - all one needs is a square or rectangle large enough to be an accurate representation of a unit's size. 

So I thought, why do I need miniatures? (Apart from the whole philosophical questions regarding miniatures and miniature wargaming. We're trying to be cheap here.)

So I ran out to a local craft and hobby shop and looked for some supplies. And I happened to find the above - foam sheets that were 99 cents apiece. They're perfect - thick enough to have some weight to them, but pliable and able to be written on with a sharpie marker. They came in a variety of colors, so I grabbed green and blue. 

I've got a double-sided sharpie that has both a thick marker and a small, pen-like nib that I used to outline the units. An orc force of nearly 1,200 points took up about two-thirds of the sheet. 

I cut everything out (easy enough with a standard pair of scissors) and labelled them with the thick marker. This took about a half hour, with a little time to trim a few strange measurements that somehow sneaked through. The best part is, I still have 2 and 1/3 sheets left - plenty of material to work with if I ever want larger games. 

I did the same with the dwarven force using the blue sheets. I also added small dots to both the dwarven and orc units to mark both the unit's front and center (for use with line-of-sight and other features of the rules).

So for about $2 I now have starter armies for a game I'd like to try without having to devote money and time into a demo game. 

This also works for plenty of other games that use large, element-based units. I'm considering using this for Black Powder, with red and blue units representing the British and Colonial forces in the American War of Independence. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Miniature Musings - Balance and Variety in All Quiet

After my All Quiet AAR was posted last week, SinSynn (of House of Paincakes fame) commented and asked about a few aspects of the game:

SinSynn wrote:
"I've been curious about this game for a hot minute now....but it was pretty obvious right from deployment who was gonna win that one!
Do the Martians not have troops? Can they only run the Tripods?

This looked like a bunch of 40k Imperial Knights going up against some random Guardsmens with a single Leman Russ and a few chimeras. Really lopsided. Also had a bit of 'gunline versus assault army' feel, since the poor humans could only win by gunning down the Tripods before they hit their lines.

There's certainly a bunch of potential for coolness with War of the Worlds kinda stuff happening here, but that Martian army looks like the most optimized thing available, while the more interesting, balanced force just got stomped the heck out. The outcome was never in doubt...

Game balance is definitely one of my top priorities when I'm interested in a new system. Too many years of playing 40k just broke me. I'm always on the lookout for a cool new thing. One batrep obviously won't tell me everything, so I'd certainly like to hear more 'bout this game...It does look cool, but I hope there's more variety on the Martian side of things...
Thanks fer the batrep!"

When I realized how long my reply had gotten, I thought, 'Why not just turn this into a blog post? I'm lazy enough to do that.' Lo and behold, this week's update:

My reply:
"Actually, according to the guys I was playing with (who've played the game 2-3 times already) this was the first Martian victory they've seen!

Martians can field 'Lobototons,' basically human zombies controlled by Slaver tripods, but for the most part tripods are the mainstay of the alien invaders. As for Martian variety, you have your Assault tripods (and the rarer Veteran Assault), which are the core of a Martian force. Scout tripods have lighter weapons, but can move faster. Grenadier tripods act a long range artillery. Slavers can control Lobototons (which can either be ranged or close combat) or Drones (of which there are four varieties. Regular Drones, close combat Drones, artillery Drones, and anti-tank drones). There are also three types of Tripod yet to be released, which are the Slaver, Dominator, and Overseer.

However, for all the shininess of the tripods, they have some major weaknesses. While they have very strong armor, they're easy to hit, and once they're hit they become easier to deal damage to thanks to the following damage chart (available and essentially unchanged from the Kickstarter draft rules):

-1-5. The Tripod is damaged. The Tripod’s Amour stat is reduced by 1.
- 6. The Tripod is damaged and crippled. The Tripod’s Armor stat is reduced by 1. In addition, every time the Tripod wishes to move, both players roll a die, and the highest scoring player can move the Tripod up to the score rolled number of inches. If both players roll the same the Tripod does not move.
- 7. The Tripod is damaged and its weapons disabled. The Tripod’s Armor stat is reduced by 1. In addition, every time the Tripod attempts to shoot both players roll a die, and the highest scoring player selects the target up to a maximum range of double the score rolled number of inches. The target must lie within range and line of sight of the Tripod, but otherwise any unit from either side can be selected as the target. If both players roll the same the Tripod does not shoot.
- 8. The Tripod is badly damaged. The Tripod’s armor stat is reduced by the score of a D10. If the Tripod’s armor stat is reduced to zero or less as a result it is destroyed as 9 below.
- 9. The Tripod is destroyed and crumples to the ground in a heap of tangled metal!
- 10+ The Tripod is destroyed and explodes in a spectacular fashion! If there are any other units within 6” of the destroyed Tripod, whether Human or Martian, then these are all caught in the explosion. Each unit suffers 3 attacks with a Power level of +2.

Since the turn sequence for the game is move-shoot/assault-move, human tanks can easily scurry out of cover, fire, and retreat. And human infantry starts the game hidden and dug in, which means not only do the Martians need to get close to 'see' them, but they're also harder to hit. And while rifles might not do much, they do have grenades that can hurt tripods in close combat, and massed machine gun fire can chink off enough armor to make a Martian commander worry. In fact, I probably would have lost more than a single tripod in the woods if the Scout hadn't exploded. They're aren't that great in close combat, preferring to fire they're weapons where the humans can get too close. 

Also, this scenario encouraged - demanded, really - that the Martians get in close. In others, the Martians are actually the defenders, which I kind of want to see. 

As for the humans, they can get some pretty cool stuff - different varieties of infantry (thanks to some free PDFs that are coming out) and tanks, including the Land Ironclad - a monster miniature that looks to be about the same size of a Baneblade, but in a 18mm scale game! The British are also being released, and they have different vehicles, like the oddly shaped Monotank, and Tesla Cannons. The Germans and French are also slated to release in the future, and as this is still WW1 period Earth, I'd expect to see some human tensions escalating into full-on war. Also, we should be seeing Venusians in the neat future, and Underdwellers (basically Morlocks) later on. So the variety in game-play should be increased exponentially."

So those are my thoughts. But, if you've played All Quiet at all, feel free to leave your own impressions and thoughts on the game in the comments. The game has definitely gotten its hooks into me, and I'm interested to play more. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Martians March on Memphis! - All Quiet on the Martian Front AAR

June 7, 1915.

Captain George Patton listened from atop his command Monitor tank as the lieutenant gestured and spoke frantically from the ground below. If the reports were right, a large force of Martian tripods were heading straight for his section of the line, apparently intent on forcing a breakthrough. He chewed at an unlit cigar as the younger junior officer continued to talk. The Martians couldn't have picked a worst place to attack - the Mississippi was at its shallowest and thinnest here, and wouldn't present much trouble for the gangly, metallic monsters. 

"Goddamned three-legged bastards," Patton muttered, half to himself. The lieutenant stopped, unsure if he should continue at the risk of interrupting his commanding officer. Patton saved him the trouble. "Is the infantry in position?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," the lieutenant replied. "Tucked up against the river banks and dug in as far as they can go."

"We'll just have to hope it's enough," Patton said, watching a column of armored infantry march past his vehicle and into the woods. Patton pointed at the lieutenant. "Get back to your post, son. We probably don't have much longer." 

The lieutenant nodded and saluted, then ran off to join the infantry in the dense trees and underbrush. 

Patton looked up at the distant roar of motorcycle engines, and could see the scouting squad of Rough Riders returning. They were coming back early, which meant the Martians wouldn't be far behind...

And Memphis had run out of time. 


I recently had the opportunity to try out a game of All Quiet on the Martian Front. I didn't have the opportunity to participate in the Kickstarter, and no one I know plays locally, but thanks to Dennis and company at On Military Matters I finally got the chance to see how the game works. 

The scenario was an attack by the Martians, who started on one table edge and had to pass to the other to score points. In their way was a combination of U.S. infantry and steam tanks.

While many of the human infantry units started the game hidden, those on the front line who weren't were instead heavily dug in. They lined the river, knowing that it would impede the tripods' progress for at least a turn.

The human's also had a great deal of armor ready to respond against the Martian assault, with squads of steam tanks, mobile artillery, and Captain Patton in a Monitor (that huge tank with all the guns). My favorite models for the humans were probably the Rough Riders, especially the guy with the machine gun laid across the handlebars of his motorcycle.

The Martians consisted of six Assault tripods, three Scouts, and a Slaver with three Drones. 

Dennis said that all the paint jobs for the miniatures had been done by one of the guys at Architects of War, and they were fantastic! 

The Martians were split into three groups - as there were three Martian commanders - and planned to come at the humans in a single wave.

As the Martians approached the Mississippi, the humans opened fire. The Martian's heavily armored tripods withstood the attack and pressed on, revealing some of the hiding infantry.

The tripods under my command moved up along the right flank, pushing into the densely forested area, aiming to take out the human command post. 

The other two groups of Martians advanced against the other group of dug-in infantry, who managed to destroy a tripod. The result explosion pinged against the armor of the tripods in range, but the damage was insignificant.

Once they were through, the Martians wasted no time and focused on the greatest threat - the Monitor! Patton was forced to make a run for the rear after a heat ray swept through his tank, destroying it.

My tripods advanced further into the woods, taking fire from machine guns, rifles and grenades. Waves of armored infantry tried to hold the tripods back, but both sides were equally ineffectual in close quarters.

The infantry hidden by the fork of the river, supported by one of the steam tanks, had a better time of it, destroying the approaching scout tripod.

A lucky strike from the armored doughboys destroyed the other scout tripod. Unfortunately, the resulting explosion wiped out every human unit in the woods!

On the other flank, the humans were having a better time, with three tripods down and another so severely damaged that its Martian pilot was fighting against its controls. The humans took heavy losses as well, losing much of their infantry and the unit of Rough Riders.

The remaining two tripods destroyed the unit of tanks in the orchard, forcing the artillery to fall back. The last of the steam tanks rolled up against the hedgerow and started to fire on the Martians.

I decided to swing my Martians into the flanks of the steam tank platoon. They pushed through the hedgerow and spun around, but with both sides deep in foliage, hits were few and far between. 

One more tripod fell, but at this point the humans conceded - there was no way the remaining humans were going to stop all the Tripods before being wiped out. And with that, the breakthrough was complete, and the Martians strode onward as klaxons began to blare in Memphis.

All Quiet on the Martian Front turned out to be a fantastic game, and I found it both easy to pick up and deep enough to want to try it again. If there's one bad thing I can say about the game, it's that I know want to buy the starter set!